Mademoiselle From Armentières


  • According to the 1994 study Dark Laughter: War in Song and Popular Culture, by Les Cleveland, "Madamoiselle From Armentières" is "a fantasy about a sexual assault on a helpless young Frenchwoman." It is, he says, "The most famous of all World War I soldiers' song."

    There is though, more to it than that. Also known as "Hinky Dinky Parley Voo" - not necessarily with that precise/imprecise spelling, the original may be dated to the 1830s (or maybe not!), with the unfortunate lady an inn keeper's daughter (perhaps the same sort of girl as found in "The Landlord's Daughter").

    Folk historian and performer Raymond Crooke who has researched it in some depth, says, "This is one of those songs that everyone adds verses to, with varying degrees of suitability for family listening."

    As indeed it is, like the verses:

    Three German officers crossed the Rhein
    Parley voo
    Three German officers crossed the Rhein
    Parley voo
    They tied the landlord to the door
    Nailed his bollocks to the floor
    Poor, poor parley voo.

    They f--ked his wife until she was dead
    Parley voo
    They f--ked his wife until she was dead
    Parley voo
    They took her down to Lovers' Lane
    F--ked her back to life again
    Poor, poor parley voo...

    No mention of a madamoiselle here, and all very shameful as well as politically incorrect, but no one with half a brain ever said war was a nice thing.

    This version is recounted from a secondary school in Greater London in the 1960s, where the German officers may have crossed the (railway) line rather than the Rhein, during the Second World War.

    Crooke's version runs to well over 8 minutes, and has been suitably sanitized by the performer (like the polite chap he is). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

Comments: 1

  • Jeremy from United KingdomIt's clearly not about a young French woman, despite the use of the word mademoiselle - "She hasn't been kissed in 40 years". It's about an ageing but popular prostitute - "She's the hardest working girl in town, But she makes her living upside down". Also, it's "parlez vous", French for "do you speak".
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